Thursday, 25 February 2021
National Consumer Credit Protection Amendment (Supporting Economic Recovery) Bill 2020; Second Reading
It's a great privilege to speak on the National Consumer Credit Protection Amendment (Supporting Economic Recovery) Bill 2020, focusing on Australia's restricting lending legislation and why we need to drive reform to enable Australians to go to a bank and get money. That's ultimately what this legislation is actually about: enabling Australians to access credit.
Restrictive lending laws that deliberately seek to deny or limit people being able to access credit don't hurt the top end of town. Truthfully, it actually favours them, because they just get to sit there in their cushy jobs, guaranteed there is no real risk, and take the cream off the top. It doesn't hurt the rich, either. It's not as if they've got a problem with access to credit most of the time, because they've got the assets to back it up, to have security, so that they can borrow the cash and get access to money. They're a safe bet. The restrictive lending legislation harms the poor. It harms the people on low incomes. It harms small businesses that want to grow. It harms people who don't have security. We all understand there's got to be proportionate risk around security as part of the process of lending, but these laws needlessly make it harder and create extra hurdles and barriers to the young, to those on low incomes, to those who want to get ahead and take risks so they might have their opportunity too. Is it really a shock that since we have introduced restrictive lending laws we've seen a massive growth in demand and credit from non-bank lenders? Is it really a shock that it's become harder and harder for people who live off their salaries and who don't have assets to access credit? Frankly, these laws are farcical in their operation today.
I will give you an example. I'm going to use a personal one. The other day I went to get an increase on my credit card limit. It was, politely, two-fifths of nothing, and I had to fill out 30 pages and wait three weeks. I'm fine. I can handle it. It's more annoying than anything else. But, for some people who need access to credit, secured or unsecured, to support their circumstances straightaway, it can be the difference between whether they can provide finance for their business or not. It can be the difference between whether they're able to purchase a property or not or a home or not.
And so it's absurdity we hear from the shadow Treasurer and others railing against it because they're the so-called champions of the poor; they're the ones trying to keep the poor in their place. We are trying to lift them up and give them opportunities to stand on their own two feet, because that's the essence of what liberalism is about—empowering individuals, families and communities. That's the foundation for the success of our country. It's not about trying to keep people in their place to maintain our political relevance, as those on the opposition benches do. The poor are the ones who are hurt most by the current legislation, and that's why reform is so essential.
But the scary thing is it isn't always just the poor; sometimes even the asset-rich are hit by restrictive lending laws. A number of self-managed superannuation fund holders who are out of the formal workforce and get income through dividends off their assets now can't go to the bank to borrow money. It's just absurd. That's people with millions of dollars in assets and rivers of revenue through dividends as the basis of their income and they can't go to a bank and borrow money. Whether it's for themselves to purchase another asset or whether it's to help their children to buy their first home—whatever it is—restrictive lending means they can't get cash. And for what? It's for the vanity of the opposition because they introduced a Northern American solution to a Northern American problem after the global financial crisis and won't accept they actually just got it wrong. Their legislation doesn't help Australia. It isn't solving an Australian problem. They have created a problem out of nothing to the detriment of everyone except for those with high incomes and large assets who are still in the workforce. It creates needless piles of regulation and processing and capital going towards creating jobs for regulatory compliance for nothing.
But the truth is it's not just for nothing. That's because the people being hurt by it are those people who want to get ahead. It's harder and harder for first home buyers to get a loan. It's harder for women who have found themselves divorced to get a loan to buy a home. This fits into a very long pattern of behaviour that we see from the Australian Labor Party. We know, with their prioritisation of superannuation over homeownership, they're throwing young Australians to the kerb on their dreams and aspirations to own their own homes. For those people who find themselves going through significant life events, such as divorce, in their 40s or their 50s, particularly women, the biggest impact on their retirement security is whether they're able to get into homeownership before they retire with enough time to retire their debt on a mortgage. They are being told by the Australian Labor Party, the Labor opposition and their mates in the super sector, who want to cream those same people's superannuation for their own profits and bonuses, 'No, we know what's best for you.'
The Labor Party doesn't care about these people's concerns or interests, because at the heart of its political agenda is a patronising world view that it has better judgement than people who can stand on their own two feet. Those opposite would rather older women had their superannuation eaten away by rent than for them to be able to enjoy the benefits of home ownership. They would rather keep them poor. That is their legacy. It may not be their intent, but it is most certainly the outcome. We see this consistently in their constant efforts to prioritise superannuation and their fund manager mates, to prioritise their fund manager mates' bonuses over the aspirations, dreams, opportunities and empowerment of Australians and their families. It's disgusting. They run interference when we raise and highlight fees for no service charged by industry funds. Why? It's because of their political proximity to them. It's because of their alliances and their interests and because they take donations, fees and support from exactly the same funds.
On this side of the chamber, we make no apology. We are in favour of empowering Australians and their families. We want them to be able to stand up and own their own home. It is the foundation of their security, it is the foundation of their opportunity and it is the foundation of their success in life. That's why I am proud to stand for 'Home first, super second', and I make no apology about it. What it will do is provide an opportunity for tens of thousands, if not millions, of Australians to have a better, more prosperous working life, and it will put them in a better position to save for their retirement than the alternative would.